Richard Rohr on Homosexuality & Fundamentalism

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The following is from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation yesterday:

In recent years and elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of authentic Christianity. Where did this come from? They never were the criteria of proper membership for the first 2000 years, but reflect very recent culture wars instead. And largely from people who think of themselves as “traditionalists”! (The fundamentals were already resolved in the early Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Note that none of the core beliefs are about morality at all. The Creeds are more mystical, cosmological, and about aligning our lives inside of a huge sacred story.) When you lose the great mystical level of religion, you always become moralistic about this or that as a cheap substitute. It gives you a false sense of being on higher spiritual ground than others.

Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called “The Three Ps” of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95 percent of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95 percent to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these “pelvic” issues. As Jesus put it, “You ignore the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith . . . and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels” (Matthew 23:23-24). We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with. There certainly is a need for a life-giving sexual morality, and true pro-life morality, but one could sincerely question whether Christian nations and people have found it yet.

Christianity will regain its moral authority when it starts emphasizing social sin in equal measure with individual (read “body-based”) sin and weave them both into a seamless garment of love and truth.

What do you think? Is Rohr providing some needed perspective here about social vs. individual sin? Is he affirming enough? Too much? Would love to hear your perspective!

About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

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  • uponacloud

    I find myself perfectly aligned with what he says. I wish I could give a start to a discussion but I can’t find anything I disagree with.

  • http://SacraMundum.com/ SacraMundum

    The assumption being made is that these “pelvic issues” are not part of the weightier matters of the law. If we would simply re-read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we would see that Jesus went beyond the pelvis to the heart (Mt 5:28), but in His emphasis of the heart, He never excused the actual physical sin. He further went on to teach on marriage and divorce (as well as other places in the Gospels), and Jesus spoke clearly about what constitutes a marriage (one man and one woman, Mt 19:5). Jesus was not afraid of controversy; if He thought homosexuality was an acceptable sexual behavior, He would have taught on the matter. But Jesus was concerned about the weightier matters, and biblical sexual ethics are among them.
    I find it interesting that the abortion issue is lumped together with this petty “pelvic issue” and that Christianity should focus on things like “social sin.” It seems quite apparent to me that killing unborn children is a social sin. And yes, Jesus is very concerned about hypocracy. A hypocrite would be someone who says he or she follows Jesus, but ignores His whole teaching on sexual ethics and the rest of Scripture (both Old and New Testaments). Remember that Jesus upheld the whole Law of God, including those that prohibit homosexuality (Lev 18:22).
    I have known homosexuals, worked with them, and have them in my family. This is not a holier-than-thou position. This is plain teaching of Scripture.
    Of those who believe that homosexual behavior is biblical, could you please tell the rest of backward Bible thumpers what the biblical sexual ethic is? Are there any taboos and sins? Is beastiality now allowable? Yes, there are people who would argue for it. What are the guidelines, parameters, rules, etc? Please give me some biblical verses and passages I can read that I too may wake from my dogmatic slumbers and hypocracy.
    I am sincerely inquiring. This is not a hit-and-run post.
    Thank you.
    Patrick

  • Deacon John

    I find it sad that so many today, Fr. Rohr among them, have come to a place where it’s either this or that. Part of the mystical journey of living the authentic Christian life is Both – And. Both morality and virtue. Having one without the other is like having only one side of a pair of scissors. In reading his books and posts, I’ve found Fr. Rohr’s scripture quotations to often be misleading, taken out of context, or manipulated in such a manner as to support his position on a matter. Unless one takes the time to look up the quote and understand its context, the bait preforms its function. In this meditation from Fr. Rohr, we certainly have a good example: Here, Jesus was not referring to morality issues vs. social justice issues as the lighter and weightier matters of the law, he specifically mentions the tithing of herbs vs. social justice issues (which by the way, abortion is a social justice issue) – but even in this “lighter” matter of the tithing herbs he goes on to say: “…these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others”. Fr. Rohr would have us “neglect” the others, which are in this case, moral issues – much weightier than the tithing of herbs (what St. Paul referred to as “works of the law”). Anyone who looks into such things (and not just what is fed by the media) knows that the Church is a grand advocate of Social Justice issues, providing more people and money to advocate reform in healthcare, immigration, care for the poor, the abused, the incarcerated, etc. However, and here Fr. Rohr makes a good point, that all too often the emphasis from the pulpit seems to focus on sins of the body and not social justice issues – and in this matter, there certainly needs to be reform (The Church is always in need of reform), but not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Unfortunately, in this daily meditation, Fr. Rohr is a grand advocate of a type of “new age Christianity” – which is not Christianity at all, but rather a compartmentalizing of the whole of Christianity into accepting only those parts one “feels” good about and discarding the rest. The result of which in no way challenges one to become the whole human, body and spirit, physical and mystical - that God created one to become.
    Peace

    • http://zhoag.com/ zachhoag

      @Deacon John John, do you feel like Rohr is advocating the total abandonment of the ethics he refers to as “lighter” matters?

  • Sheena Bradley

    I also find this a great perspective and one which I have only in the last year arrived at myself after a lifetime of ignorance and assumptions. In many cases the institutionalised church has a lot of growing up to do and I hope it can…


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